Striker’s first goal of 2016 keeps Red Stars undefeated in six

By Gunnar Berndt

Chicago, Ill. – The Chicago Red Stars extended their unbeaten run in National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) play to six games but failed to earn their fifth win in seven contests this season, tying visiting Sky Blue FC 1-1 on Sunday evening. At the the end of a fiercely contested affair, the two sides shared the spoils courtesy of Chicago attacker Sofia Huerta’s first goal of the season and an equalizer by substitute Leah Galton after the break. While the Red Stars had to replace usual starters Alyssa Naeher, Julie Johnston and Christen Press, the opposition was without the trio’s fellow U.S. camp participant Kelley O’Hara.

The fans at Toyota Park in Bridgeview had to wait until the 34th minute for a quality opportunity, and they were compensated for their patience in the form of Huerta’s outstanding go-ahead tally. Holding midfielder Danielle Colaprico threaded an exquisite pass through the opposition backline to release her streaking teammate, whose move around onrushing netminder Caroline Stanley put her in a less-than-ideal position. Huerta subsequently displayed impressive awareness as she put enough power on the tight-angled finish to send it past recovering defender Kristin Grubka and into the back of the net.

Four minutes later, the 23-year-old nearly doubled her scoring total, as she found herself with the ball on the left edge of the area and cut to her right before curling a precise ball on target that seemed destined to find its way underneath the bar if not for Stanley leaving her feet and tipping over in spectacular fashion.

Sky Blue FC had a huge chance of its own early in the second period. Playing out of the back, Red Stars goalkeeper Michele Dalton passed the ball short to Samantha Johnson, whose uncharacteristic mistouch saw it roll right to the feet of Shawna Gordon. With Dalton out of position, the midfielder sensed an opportunity to pounce and hit a first-time effort from the edge of the penalty area that whizzed narrowly wide of the left upright.

Huerta should have put Chicago comfortably on track to victory halfway through the second period, as she sprinted in on goal left of center and free of any opposition from Sky Blue FC players. With Stanley rushing off her line, the Red Stars attacker fired past the former Seattle Reign FC shot-stopper and back across goal, but also narrowly past the right post for an agonizing miss. Outside back Arin Gilliland had hit a long ball into the attack that was flicked on by Jen Hoy, followed by some indecisive defending from Grubka, allowing Idaho native Huerta to explode past the second-year pro for her one-on-one look.

The home side was punished for the wasted opportunity in the 69th minute of the contest. Taylor Lytle swung in a cross from the right that found wide-open substitute Galton at the far past, the forward showing excellent composure in taking the ball down and firing it into the far-side netting to leave Dalton without a chance.

Despite a quick succession of corner kicks subsequent to the setback, the Red Stars were unable to generate any more clear-cut looks during the remainder of the match. Meanwhile, Sky Blue FC put on some significant pressure in the closing stages, including an 86th-minute scare produced by goal-scorer Galton, who dribbled through on the left side of the box and was able to send the ball on frame from a difficult position, only to see it deflect off the shoulder of netminder Dalton and out of danger.

If would be the day’s final noteworthy action, as the Red Stars remain unbeaten at home. Head Coach Rory Dames’s squad looks to make it five wins in eight NWSL games this year when it takes on visiting Portland Thorns FC on Sunday, June 12. Individual and season tickets for Chicago’s 2016 campaign at Toyota Park in Bridgeview may be purchased by clicking here or by calling 773-697-8699.

NWSL Match Report
Match: Chicago Red Stars vs. Sky Blue FC
Date: May 29, 2016
Venue: Toyota Park; Bridgeview, Ill.
Kickoff: 6 p.m. PT (7 p.m. ET)

Attendance: 2,502

Scoring Summary:

1 2 T
CHI 1 0 1
SBFC 0 1 1

CHI  – Sofia Huerta 34’ (Jen Hoy)
SBFC – Leah Galton (Taylor Lytle) 69’]

Lineups:

CHI: 18-Michele Dalton Goalkeeper; 3-Arin Gilliland Right Back, 8-Katie Naughton Center Back, 16-Samantha Johnson Center Back, 6-Casey Short Left Back; 4-Alyssa Mautz Right Midfielder (12-Cara Walls Substitute, 71’), 24-Danielle Colaprico Midfielder (15-Courtney Raetzman Substitute, 88’), 13-Amanda DaCosta Midfielder (7-Taylor Comeau Substitute, 60’), 10-Vanessa DiBernardo Left Midfielder (capt.); 11-Sofia Huerta Forward, 2-Jen Hoy Forward
Subs not used: 33-Brianna Smallidge Goalkeeper, 14-Sarah Gorden Substitute, 34-Mary Luba Substitute, 20-Janelle Flaws Substitute
Head Coach: Rory Dames

SBFC: 18-Caroline Stanley Goalkeeper; 13-Kristin Grubka Right Back, 3-Christie Rampone Center Back (capt.), 8-Erica Skroski Center Back, 33-Erin Simon Left Back; 2-Shawna Gordon Right Midfielder (21-Leah Galton Substitute, 53’), 12-Sarah Killion Midfielder, 11-Raquel Rodriguez Midfielder, 24-Kelly Conheeney Midfielder, 6-Taylor Lytle Left Midfielder; 12-Kim DeCesare Forward (32-Tasha Kai Substitute, 63’ [7-Nikki Stanton Substitute, 89’])
Subs not used: 27-Caroline Casey Goalkeeper, 5-CoCo Goodson Substitute, 44-Theresa Dietrich Substitute
Head Coach: Christy Holly

Stats summary: CHI / SBFC
Shots: 7 / 8
Shots on Goal: 3 / 3
Saves: 2 / 2
Corner Kicks: 4 / 3
Fouls: 5 / 9
Offside: 7 / 6

Misconduct Summary:
SBFC – Leah Galton (yellow card; reckless foul) 57’

Officials:
Referee: Matthew Franz
Assistant Referee 1: Maggie Short
Assistant Referee 2: Becky Pagan
Fourth Official: Kimberly Oberle

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